I first visited Jardin Plume in June this year and it was beautiful. On my return in September, I could see the garden now wearing its late summer clothes. The fresh greens of early summer had been replaced with the warm green-golds and purple-plum colours of early autumn.
Close to the house, the parterre of the Jardin d’été is now overflowing with flowers in a vibrant colour palette of red, orange and yellow. Huge red flower heads of Dahlia ‘By George’ nod under the weight of the early morning rain.
The parterre hedges are open on one side to allow nasturtiums, fennel, Helenium ‘Waltraut’, crocosmia, Rudbeckia triloba and dahlias to flow out over the paths.
The froth of geraniums and astrantia has now died down in the Jardin de Printemps, revealing the structure provided by box balls and tall Stipa gigantea. To the back of the garden the hedge and trees form the essential shelter belt planted by the Quibels on their arrival at the garden. This barrier protects the garden from the strong winds that sweep across this flat agricultural part of Normandy, and allows them to plant the tall airy plants that they love.
Tacking back across the summer garden, we glimpse the old well in the Jardin d’Automne through the arch in the hedge.
This garden is now at its peak with a dense planting of tall perennials enveloping visitors in their embrace. In the foreground, the hot-pink of Polygonum orientalis flowers above my head. Behind it, even taller, soar the scented white flowerheads and dark burgundy stems of Cimicifuga atropurpurea.
The narrow paths create an intimate garden where you can lose yourself amongst the tall plants, alone with just the sound of humming insects and rustling foliage.
A table of box under a vine-covered pergola provides the Quibels with a spot for lunch outside in summer. The huge width of the box hedge creates distance and a breathing space from the tall plants so they can appreciate them without being overpowered.
The Flower Garden has become an elegant blend of pinks and purples, now that the yellows and brighter blues of early summer have finished flowering.
Dahlias, japanese anemones and echinaceas are grouped in a naturalistic way.
Box balls flank the gap in the chestnut paling, framing the view out into the meadow and orchard from inside the Flower Garden. The clipped hedges and box balls contrast with the wild grasses and naturalistic perennial planting found throughout the gardens.
The Miscanthus Cloister has now grown up to its full height and an inviting gap in their serried ranks pulls the visitor forward to explore.
Inside, tall grasses hide a secret pool, a sheltered ‘zen’ space where the Quibels come to relax and read. They had intended to build a structure to provide a viewing point in this area but have been unable so far to design anything they really like.
Beyond the Miscanthus Cloister, the American Squares of ornamental grasses are now at their magnificent best. One of my discoveries of the day was the scent of this delicate grass, Sporobolus heterolepsis.
The ornamental grasses of the American Squares are a repetition of the structured squares of native grasses and wildflowers in the centre of the orchard garden.
The Quibels told us that they had gone to great lengths to obtain seed of this scabious Succisa pratensis, only to find the following year that it was growing profusely in a nearby hedgerow. As it self-seeds, they now have plenty of their own plants.
The Jardin Plume (Feather Garden) gives the Quibel’s entire garden its name. Here they have planted the tall feathery delicate grasses and perennials they love. With the protection of the thick shelter belt, no staking is required which would mar the natural feel they are aiming for.
Thalictrum ‘Splendide’ has burgundy stems with pale violet flowers and can reach over 2 metres tall. Behind it is Rudbeckia triloba, a delicate rudbeckia with small flowers and foliage.
The pale purple flowers of Althaea cannabina reach for the heavens on light, airy stems.
A tall wine-coloured sanguisorba
The Jardin Plume has to be my favorite French garden. The combination of naturalistic planting of perennials and grasses within a formal French-inspired structure is modern but with a nod to the past. On this visit the tall airy plants in the Jardin Plume and the Autumn Garden were particularly inspiring. The planting combinations put together by the Quibel’s give every part of their garden its unique atmosphere.
Here is a link to my previous blog post about Jardin Plume written in June 2014.
Le Jardin Plume, 76116 Auzouville-sur-Ry, Tel: +33 (0)2 35 23 00 01. firstname.lastname@example.org, www.lejardinplume.com
The garden is open from April to October but not every day of the week and is closed at lunchtime. For information on opening hours go to the jardin plume website. The garden is 20km from Rouen and really in the middle of the countryside so better accessed by car. There are very clear signposts from Auzouville-sur-Ry and around. Entry in 2014 – 8,50€.
The garden also hosts two plant fairs a year, in June and September – check the website for details.
There are good toilets but no café.
I’d like to add another little plug for Susan Worner tours who visit the Jardin Plume as part of an excellent tour of Normandy gardens. For information go to Susan Worner Tours.
Lynda Harris is a landscape architect and garden designer based in Paris.